First-quarter update from Michael Slivka

Michael was the recipient of the JumpStart grant. He has sent in some updates that we wanted to post on the website for others to keep up on.

The first quarter of my first year of beekeeping was one of learning, preparation, and anticipation.

I have been interested in keeping bees for a while. When I moved back to the area in 2018, a good friend who has kept bees for a few years told me about the Southeast Indiana Beekeepers Association (SIBA) club. I started attending their monthly meetings in October of 2018. Since then I have met many friendly and knowledgeable beekeepers and I have learned a lot from them as well as the monthly speakers. SIBA member, Jeff Montag, agreed to be my mentor in the JumpStart program. Jeff and his family have been keeping bees for many years and are also quite involved in queen breeding. I received my Jump Start Hive at the February SIBA club meeting.

Another great resource provided by SIBA is its library of bee and beekeeping related books. I have read several books that I borrowed from the SIBA library including Beekeeping For Dummies by Blakiston, "Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping" by Coron and Connor as well as "The Beekeeper's Handbook" by Sammataro, Avitabile, and Caron. I also subscribed to Bee Culture Magazine and the American Bee Journal. I had no idea there was so much to learn about honey bees.

To make sure I was ready for my bees later in the spring, I attended the Beginner Beekeeping class at the Indiana Bee School in Indianapolis, IN. The class was informative and it was great to be able to ask questions as the material was presented. The other cool thing about Bee School is a large number of vendors that are on-site with their merchandise providing a great opportunity to check out their wares and determine which will best suit your needs. I bought a ventilated bee jacket, tools and a smoker from Bastin Honey Bee Farm which is a bee-supply business based in Knightstown, Indiana.

After bee school, I was quite excited to get my equipment ready. I attended a SIBA "workshop" at the home of club member Gary Reeves where I received some pointers on assembling hive boxes and frames. During March, I assembled my hive boxes and frames. I also built a number of swarm traps using plans I downloaded from; I modified the plans slightly to yield eight complete traps from 3 sheets of plywood. I then primed and painted the hive boxes and swarm traps a medium shade of green. I intend to use a different color for equipment put into service each year. By happy coincidence, the color I selected for 2019 coincides with the queen marking color convention which specifies green for years ending in 4 and 9; I plan on following this convention when selecting paint colors in the future.

I also selected a site for my apiary. I had considered several spots on my property but I finally selected a location on the south side of a fence/hedgerow with the hives facing south across a pasture. The location receives sun most of the day. The base is constructed of two 10'x4"x4" posts laid horizontally across cement blocks which were leveled using gravel. I believe this setup should accommodate up to 5 hives. Following a recommendation from SIBA member, Jim Orem, I re-purposed some salvaged shingles by laying them under the base for weed control ("because free is better than cheap").

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